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Creating Your Own Landscape: An interview with Brett Krudener of Witmer Jones Keefer Ltd.

By Brett Krudener

Please describe the foundation of your company and your qualifications.

Founded in 2007, Witmer Jones Keefer Ltd. is a Land Planning and Landscape Architecture firm. Our design philosophy is based on the principles set forth in the Charter for New Urbanism.

Our mission is to make places great because great places create value for our clients. Since every project we work on is a place first and foremost, we don't categorize projects as Residential, Commercial, Public, etc. Instead we see them as Villages, Parks and/or Gardens. The design of great places incorporates aspects of all three; from a large scale master plan for an entire Village to site-specific landscape plans for a public gathering place or Park to elaborate construction detailing for intimate Garden spaces. In the creation of great places we strive to achieve authenticity by allowing the land and the region to influence the overall design. People want to love where they live, work, and play. When we celebrate the unique characteristics that set them apart from "anywhere USA" we have done our job.

While having participated in a wide range of design work throughout our 60+ years of combined experience, we each possess a unique background and set of skills that are integral to the diversity of our team.

What are a few reasons it is important to include an irrigation system in landscapes?

We are only the architects of the overall plan; however, some form of irrigation is always vital to the overall aesthetic and longevity of a landscape. There are always drought tolerant plant options for those instances where irrigation may not be a viable option. Whether it is an automatic system or simply a rain barrel capturing runoff for manual irrigation, each play a role in keeping plant material healthy and a landscape looking its best.

What are the benefits associated with using seasonal, local plants in my garden bed?

Seasonal plant material is great for accentuated 'pops' of interest within your landscape, or if you enjoy making changes to the landscape throughout the year. It's also a great way to keep your landscape fresh and new at the same time. Local or native plant material is excellent for blending the surrounding natural landscape with the built environment. Native plant material is also a more sustainable landscape option because they are more hearty, faster growing, require less overall maintenance, and typically require less water due to their acclimation to the area's average annual rainfall.

What are some of the most common hardscapes included in landscaping and what are the benefits?

The most common hardscape MATERIALS used in our landscape plans are typically clay brick (preferably tumbled), tabby finish concrete (conducive to the coastal region), and various types of stone. Each provides a unique and completely different feel within the landscape allowing us to accommodate the clients vision, maintenance desires, and intended experience.

The most common hardscape ELEMENTS used in our landscape plans are typically outdoor kitchens, fire pits, and brick wall or wood fence enclosures. An outdoor kitchen is always great for entertaining without being isolated by having to cook in the kitchen while guests enjoy the patio. A fire pit is the perfect element for relaxation and is probably the #1 feature requested by clients. It's ideal for those cool evenings outside with a glass of wine just watching the sun fade. Lastly, yard enclosures are another common request. Being a coastal area we have a fair amount of wildlife we have to be conscious of. Alligators are common place in area lagoons, and deer can mow down a beautiful landscape overnight, therefore we receive requests for some type of separation regularly.

What landscape elements can help my lawn function as an "outdoor living space?"

Outdoor living space is somewhat of a broad term. This could range from your overall yard to a small landscaped portion with a simple bench or seating area, it is ultimately up to the client or user. Either way, creating an 'outdoor living space' is an individual process based on the likes and needs of the client. One may seek privacy and intimacy while another may seek grand views and an open plan.

It is easiest to think of your outdoor living space as an actual room. If you are the type seeking intimacy you may want to incorporate a tree or understory canopy to act as a type of ceiling or roof to bring the scale of the usable area down to a more comfortable level or feel. Shrubs and other plant material would be considered your surrounding walls. Lush, evergreen plant material are a must for buffering or screening. It is also a great backdrop to some of your more vibrant, specimen plantings that you may want to showcase in the foreground, such as, your flowering shrubs (e.g. Camellias, Hydrangea, Osmanthus), ground covers (e.g. Asiatic Jasmine, Dwarf Gardenia, Vinca spp.), or annual beds. Just make sure to consider the plant's mature size prior to installation to ensure adequate space over time. Lastly, is the floor. If you are going with 'wall to wall' with lawn, then keep it lush and keep your bedllines well defined. This is an outdoor living area you are creating and you want it to be as inviting as possible.

For those seeking a more open or airy outdoor living space, you may want to be less dense with plant material. Fewer trees overhead will generate a less enclosed feeling within the landscape (The sky is literally the limit when making a decision here). You may still require the evergreen buffer in this instance; however, it may only be utilized as necessary or less liberally than in an intimate landscape plan (e.g. an individual Magnolia used to screen a direct view vs. a row of Wax Myrtles to hide an entire facade). Lawn is again a big feature. Keep it lush and well defined to draw users out into the space.

In both instances, a more definitive 'outdoor living space' can be created through the use of alternate materials in lieu of lawn. A hardscape patio will easily define the extents of an outdoor living space, or a feature such as a fire pit placed out in the landscape, will not only provide an outdoor living space but a destination. These strategies will aid in drawing users out into the landscape, creating a more unique experience for the user.

Should the amount of sunlight affect the kinds of plant I can use?

Yes, sun exposure is vital to a successful landscape. Each plant has a recommended amount of sun exposure to ensure life and longevity and should be considered whenever possible.

What is the best way for people to get in contact with you or your company?

Witmer Jones Keefer is available for client consultation via our website at www.wjkltd.com or by contacting our office at (843)757-7411.

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